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DC’s announcement of four 100-page Comics Giant anthologies to be sold exclusively at 3000 Walmart stores around the nation sure did cause a lot of talk yesterday, It even reached us on the floor of the annual American LIbrary Association meeting, where worries about newsstand sales anc sell through are normally as far away as Mars.

ON THE ONE HAND it finally FINALLy scratches that itch that wants to have comics back on “newsstands” where kids can get hooked on them. I’m old enough to have bought my Marvel comics in 7-11s (and at the horrible Foodtown out on Route 22 in White House, NJ). While the Foodtown was, objectively, an awful place to buy comics, I will allow that the hazy childhood memories of racing there to find the new issues of X-men is a powerful one, and that kind of nostalgia fuels many a dream of getting comics out in “public” again.

For non-AARP aged readers, this is actually nostalgia for a PREVIOUS generation’s comics buying:

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While I’m not sure some of the teams on the new material are that youth-friendly, with it’s big logo and popular lead characters, this is clearly a line aimed at new readers, something that everyone in the industry says they want.

The exclusive material in each 100 page giant amounts to only 12 pages an issues – a trifling matter really. I’m sure DC expected comics shop retailers to be annoyed at this, but quickly reassured by the idea of reaching new readers and prominently featuring the comic Shop Locator number in each 100 page issue.

Well, I’m told that retailers were more than a little annoyed on private retailer forums. End of the world might be closer to the reaction. Dan DiDio even had to make an emergency live 15 minute video presentation answering questions about the line.

And peppy pro boosters on twitter were quickly answering critics along with accepting plaudits.

https://twitter.com/jpalmiotti/status/1010396724735758337

Then there was Larry’s Comic, one of the more controversial retailers out there, and one representing the darkest reaction to the new product:

Good old industry solidarity! Nothing vengeful there.

Setting aside the major problems with Walmart as a company, there’s also the matter of just where these books will be seen.

I only go to the Walmart in Augusta, ME once every three years or so, so I’m hardly an expert, but once again, I’m told that graphic novels are usually sold in the book section but floppy comics are sold in the “trading card” section – a throwback to the view of comics as a collectible.

In fact an Elite Beat Operative stopped by their local Wal-Mart and found a small cardboard dump located in the trading card section selling DC comics, including the current DC Showcase anthology, a previous attempt at selling packaged reprints to Wal-Mart.

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I’ll have some more thoughts about this after I return from ALA, but one of the first things that springs to mind over the retailer outrage is that as outraged as they are over not having these 48 pages a month, they already have – effectively – 100’s of exclusive products to sell every month! Comics periodicals are practically direct market exclusives now, and the tons of variant covers are not available anywhere else. Is this not enough????!!!!!

Honest to god, you people, 48 pages a month that you can’t sell is not going to kill your business.

Really.

By the same token, I don’t think a little cardboard dump in the back of Wal-mart is going to SAVE comics either. Comics don’t need saving. if you were at ALA talking to librarians you’d know that. But anyway, the more channels you’re in, the better. These 100 page giants are not going to kill the direct sales market, and they might just give a few kids that magic that hooks them for life.

We’re always asking publishers to do somethign to get more readers. At least DC is trying SOMETHING. You come up with a better idea!

 

 

35 COMMENTS

  1. DC also made clear to retailers that the exclusive pages will be collected in trades once the stories are done so this is really making a bird out of a feather. They aren’t angry about the Digital First books so this is just them being angry they aren’t 100% of the market

  2. This will fail. I remember the Target stores that had Marvel trades in softcover for $5 a piece too. They were in the toy aisle and failed and then they moved them to the books and magazine section and didn’t work there either. And they pissed off comic stores as they had trades of Ultimate Spider-Man as well but they were more money (12.95/14.95 I’m remembering?)

    Plus the content of these books aren’t for “kids”, these are for the teen market.

    Hate to tell “Rah-Rah” Jimmy that this ship has done sailed a long time ago. I pitched ideas to DC when I worked for them about how to make the comics more interactive and broaden the reach of them in the early 2000s and they laughed at me and asked why I would do this. No lie. So let DC crash and burn.

  3. So many people in the comic industry always take things so personally. This goes without saying for many industries but there’s just something about this one that seems to bring out people’s pettiest responses.

  4. Keyser. Respectfully, the early 2000’s were a decade ago.

    Things have changed a lot in the industry, and especially at DC Comics since then.

    That said, I will cheer on any move that can bring new readers to comics. Trying is better than doing nothing.

    And BTW- my new mob name is Jimmy RAH-RAH Palmiotti. Thanks for that. My old mob name was quite dated.

  5. “It’s only 48 pages!” That’s a disingenuous way to approach it. A Tom King Superman book would easily be in the top 5 selling titles at my shop, and we could use another strong seller. “They’re gonna reprint it” is a pretty silly thing to point out about a direct market that was founded on collectors.

    My bigger issue is that having stories exclusive to a retailer seems like a bad road. CD’s did this in their death spiral a few years ago too. An album would come out but the version at Best Buy had one bonus track, the version at Target had a different one and iTunes had a third. It was ridiculous. Much like songs I enjoy stories, I’d hate to have to go to six different stores to read a Bendis Batman and a Tradd Moore Deathstroke or whatever the next place gets. Retailer exclusive covers are one thing, but exclusive stories is a bummer deal.

  6. And what use would exclusive material be to a general Wal-Mart customer? This actually looks more like a ploy to get comic-fans into Wal-Mart, instead of a way to get Wal-Mart customers into comics. But it’s true, at least DC is trying, but I am not sure that this is going to be succesfull.
    Part of the appeal of comics these days is just the fact that it is a niche-market; the Geek-market. It is hard to get this across in a general sanitized Wal-Mart enviroment. The card-board dump on the picture isn’t doing the job, that’s for sure. It’s hard to get any idea of the surroundings from the picture, but if I were DC, and I wanted to get the word out, I’d work on making the package and display look as attractive as possible. Working with Wal-Mart to get optimal display might be too much to ask for a $5,- product, but if they aren’t pushing it, what’s the use?

  7. Does anyone know if Walmart Canada is going to have these? Because I’ve been asking their Facebook page, and Walmart Canada doesn’t have a clue…

  8. Saying the direct market has exclusives isn’t really true. Walmart can open a Diamond account account and order anything a store can. But now a store can’t order everything Walmart can.
    If DC’s play was to get new readers, they don’t new content. A new reader doesn’t know content from 30 days ago to 30 years ago. It is all new to them. Reprint material is all fine when you have never read it before.
    Getting top creators with new content is a bid to get existing readers. Readers who know who Tom King is. New readers have never heard of him before, so it doesn’t matter to them. But it does matter to existing customers.
    So there is now content that existing customers want, that stores cannot supply. It seem a bit a fib to say this is only a play for new customers.

  9. I get it. I hope it works. But if I was a retailer, my outrage would be: why can’t DC give comic stores a 3 pack of comics for $5 or a 100 page comic for $4.99, new or reprint or combo, when most comics are 32 pages for $3.99 and up? Where are the value statement comics in the store that I can use to get the potential new readers that do come into my store to come back? Yes, there are some $1 reprints, and they have done the 100 page reprints, but those have been $7.99 and up.

  10. Comics need to be distributed as widely as possible. The medium is dying and if something isn’t done to expand the fan base, there won’t be any comic shops in 10 years. What there is left of the industry by then will be all digital.

  11. ‘Walmart can open a Diamond account account and order anything a store can.”

    Oh man, oh, man, oh man, I would L-O-V-E for this to happen! EVERY Walmart carrying a full range of (non-mature type) comics! Retailers across the country would explode.

    Everybody claims to support free enterprise until they’re actually forced to face competition. Retailers complaining about this is like a bizarro version of traditional dealerships complaining about Tesla’s sales model.

  12. All the retailers butthurt about this take a stand: stop ordering ALL DC Comics. If you’ve been SO BETRAYED then break up with the one who hurt you.

  13. I think it’s great. Like others have said, the more venues you get comics into the better the chance of getting people turned on to the form.

    As for why they can’t do this for stores it’s simple. The only way that DC can produce 100 pages for $4.99 is to guarantee a very large print run (and probably for every issue they’ve contracted for up front). As an aside, that’s actually why I believe the rumor that DC may be shifting it’s entire output to the paper stock used on these giants; it makes sense from a printing perspective.

    DC can sign a contract with Walmart that not only guarantees 50-100 copies per store for issue 1, but also 50-100 copies per store for issue 10. There is no way that any LCS is going to tie themselves into a contract where they have to take that many copies of issue 10 of a book before the first one’s shipped.

    Standard attrition alone would make this model impossible. The Direct Market just can’t handle an order of this size over that many issues. As it is, DC can set up an order of potentially 150,000-300,000 copies of each book and just keep it going for a full year.

  14. Good grief. It’s an experiment to see if proven, quality talent can help sell reprints to a different audience. It’s the equivalent of digital first exclusives on Comixology. No one’s comic fix is going to come from 12 pages of continuing/one shot stories and 3 random reprint issues. But that format might encourage a kid/teen to look for other comics formats to read more. Maybe it’s finding a comic store that’s nearby (not hard to find), or googling where to comic books and finding a subscription service or Comixology, or even getting excited enough to browse the trade paperback collections at a local bookstore. I don’t think direct comic retailers “want” a 12-page story from the likes of Tom King and random reprints tacked to it. How well do the True Believers and DC Kirby tribute style issues really sell?? The direct market is for ongoing series currently around 20-30 pages per issue and averaging $3.99 apiece. Good luck groveling over pennies list to Wal-Mart when you sell thousands of dollars in your own direct market store every year. Wal-Mart is never going to compete with direct market comic stores for prodigal comic sales. That’s not Wal-Mart’s line of business. Things are going to be okay. I’m a regular periodical reader. I have no interest in these books because it’s $20 I could spend on NEW comics at my LCS each month. Why would I want to pay $4.99 for 12 pages of new content when I can buy at least 30 pages of new material with that money?? I’m not the intended audience!

  15. @Michiel

    “This actually looks more like a ploy to get comic-fans into Wal-Mart, instead of a way to get Wal-Mart customers into comics.”

    What retailer wouldn’t want to draw from the comic fan base? You’re talking about a large group of people that visit physical stores like clockwork.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Wal-Mart is mandating that new material be in each of these books.

  16. I’m a little torn about this one. The ‘3 for $1’ Whitman (DC) comic packs at my local Caldor’s department store were my gateway to comics. Of course, that was 40 years ago – before the direct market really took off – and they didn’t contain new material. It seems to be me that the main reason to include the new content by top creators is to create a buzz about the new promotion. As others have mentioned, a new reader probably won’t even know or care that the stories are new/exclusive, but if the stories were all reprints, would anyone even be talking about this? There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

  17. The people who run my LCS (still going strong after 31 years) think that this is a good thing. More comics in more hands leads to more potential customers.

  18. I see the distribution of these largely reprint volumes as a good thing. If it works, comic shops and movies will get new fans. If it doesn’t work, well, it doesn’t work. Go to the NEXT idea on how to attract young people into comic buying behavior.

  19. First while being critical of Walmart’s practices is something I can get on board with, bringing it up for this is a little hypercritical. I mean Walmarts are already full of DC branded products, a fair amount of even being exclusives. DC is part of a multinational corporation and any impression of it being otherwise is just good marketing/public relations. If this deal rankles you maybe ask yourself why hasn’t all those others.

    I am starting to wonder if this may be part of a bigger push by DC. I mean they seem to be going back to the traditional depictions Superman and Batman. Plus the new Justice League is back to Timm-verse line-up with some additions. Also I wonder if this or similar outlets wasn’t always the intended home for the New Age of Heroes.

  20. How can you fault a company, DC in this case, for trying different avenues to sell it’s product? Why should LCSs have exclusive privileges? It’s business. My main priority as a comics fan is to see comics survive and thrive..I couldn’t give a flip if it’s sold at a gas station or a Victoria’s Secret.

  21. 1) will these be perfect bound, or 100 pages packed into the standard single issue format?
    2) I support my LCS, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let someone shame me into NOT buying something I’m interested in. Shame on you if you want to complain about this prospect for fans. Digests like these are exactly how I got hooked on comics when I was a kid. My parents didn’t buy us singles, but they picked up digests in the supermarket all the time. As an adult I spend between $50-$80 a month on comics. The lack of foresight by some whiners is appalling.
    3) I wish there were a precise way to find out if indeed my local Walmart will be carrying these. When they offered the blind mixed-bags, I asked managers at the stores around where I live … none of them knew if they had the books, and when I looked I never found any.

  22. Doesn’t make sense. People that shop at Walmart don’t have spare cash to spend on comic books. They need to use all their coal-mining-earned dollars on essentials like processed foods, bullets, and supplies to build a shelter for when the “deep state” comes for them.

  23. Does it even matter? What LCS customer is going to stop buying the stuff they normally buy just because 12 new pages are at Wal-Mart? And what new readers? DC in particular has tried again and again to attract new readers and no one’s interested. New superhero floppies are for old people. Kids have movies, YouTube, and video games now to give them the same stuff.

  24. “One of the first things that springs to mind over the retailer outrage is that as outraged as they are over not having these 48 pages a month, they already have – effectively – 100’s of exclusive products to sell every month! Comics periodicals are practically direct market exclusives now, and the tons of variant covers are not available anywhere else. Is this not enough????!!!!!”

    Exactly this. I swear, I have never encountered a more entitled group of people than (the majority of) comic book retailers. Except maybe Star Wars fanatics.

  25. Retailers are angry? I’m wagering Diamond isn’t in on the distribution of these books so the exclusive deal they cut way back isn’t putting any money in their pockets either. Waiting to see these on ebay to see if they will really have an impact on the comics market short term. They should get them into Sam’s Club as well as Walmart.

  26. About two decades ago, when I was the PR manager for a major appliance manufacturer, Sears was still the king of appliance retailers. Because of this, they were able to throw their weight around in a number of ways. Sears’ “Kenmore” brand was just a name, and every Kenmore appliance was, in reality, an existing machine made by an existing appliance manufacturer, but with some sort of twist that would only exist on that particular Kenmore model. Think an issue of Superman that was going to have widespread release, but with an exclusive variant cover. Basically, that’s all this is. In addition, Sears would constantly try and squeeze the biggest discounts they could from the manufacturers, citing their potential customer reach. I’m sure the mom and pop appliance retail stores did not like this arrangement, but then again, they were not the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

  27. Heidi, I am amazed at how little you understand the business of comics after all these years. Your ill considered comments remind me of one of my favorite quotes, “Too often we…enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – John F. Kennedy

    As for “they already have – effectively – 100’s of exclusive products to sell every month! Comics periodicals are practically direct market exclusives now, and the tons of variant covers are not available anywhere else. Is this not enough????!!!!!”

    That is simply not true, not by any stretch of the imagination. Amazon, B&N and even Walmart have the ability to buy EVERY comic we have access to. And to be perfectly clear, we are comic BOOK stores, not comic COVER stores. This is not about creating new comic readers, non-comic readers have no idea who King and Bendis are, they aren’t needed to sell comics at Walmart. It is about creating new Walmart shoppers by leveraging the awareness of King and Bendis by DM comic readers to pull them and their discretionary income into Walmart where they can sell them their comic based movies, games and action figures. More money that might have been spent in the DM, going to big box retail and this time abetted by one of, if not the, biggest vendor to the DM.

    Oddly enough as this removes sales from the DM and does not increase readership, DC will actually (and actively) decrease sales in the DM and if/when Walmart drops the program will likely find themselves worse off than when they started and have only themselves to blame.

    “Honest to god, you people, 48 pages a month that you can’t sell is not going to kill your business.”

    Truly sad but yes, it quite possibly could. Considering the only buyers who care about King and Bendis are already buying comics and will now “have to” buy at least some of them from someone other than their LCS, most stores are going to see a loss of sales. If as many believe, a comic buyers budget is inelastic, that extra $20/mo for the Walmart exclusives is going to come from somewhere. If a shop has only 100 Batman & Superman customers, that’s a potential loss of $2,000/mo (the equivalent of a couple of part timers who may get laid off) and that’s just the passive loss. If Walmart decides to actively market to these buyers, not just the previously mentioned movies, games and toys but also increasing pushing the deep discounted GN they already offer and possibly offering a subscription service and can also deliver… that all points to killing many small shops, just like they’ve done across the country to video, music and hardware stores. The fact that they have their own bank and credit system means they can also make it “easier” for customers to buy their comic based product there.

    This doesn’t even take into account how the rest of the industry is impacted. Currently the DM is barely supporting one full line comic distributor and has seen weak sales and a loss of many veteran stores over the last few years now. If this leads to the loss of even more stores, how long before this impacts sales of smaller publishers or even the only full line distributor? And regardless of the negative labels often applied to the Diamond “monopoly” if they are laid low, there is no way anyone with the love and passion for comics takes over.

    There is just so much bad that is engendered by this move and absolutely no good for anyone but Walmart but then anyone paying attention to history wouldn’t have expected anything else.

  28. For the negative responses. Think of it this way: New readers may like the stories by Bendis or King the most, they may want more stories like this. They may see the ad for the comic shop locater, and go and purchase books or back issues, they may even set up a file.

  29. King has written lots of good material for DC already, if you want new readers to hook up with his work you might as well reprint some of his older work that has garnered critical acclaim.

    Bendis does not have much written yet, but at the same time they could just reprint some of his Man of Steel that looks to be positively received as well.

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